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Hydrocarbon Exploration to Exploitation West of Shetland

atryOil West of Shetland once again hit the headlines recently with the Scottish independence referendum. Thus, despite that this Geological Society Special Publication was based on a 2011 conference, its release in mid-2014 feels quite timely.

As Special Publications go this is a rather thin volume, weighing in at only 229 pages. It is comprised of 12 papers (plus an introduction), of which 10 are written by scientists working in the petroleum industry, giving it a different tone to many other special publications authored by academics.

Many papers in the volume concentrate on case studies and stories from individual fields or exploration campaigns. Laggan, Foinaiven, Glenlivet, Tornado, Lancaster and Cambo are discussed across several papers from either an exploration or an appraisal viewpoint. A separate paper by Loizou discusses the contrasts between some of the aforementioned exploration successes, and exploration failures such as the Assynt prospect. A key message from this section is an overreliance on geophysics over the underpinning geology, or unsuitability of older geophysical data, led to many exploration failures in the basin.

Further papers in the publication describe the influence of sills on reservoir sand occurrence, the results of reprocessing older seismic to see through basalt cover, the use of formation micro imaging tools for volcanic facies identification, the use of detrital zircons to date basement history in Rockall and new workflows for cuttings analysis in large igneous provinces. In general these are snappily written, well-argued papers with some very interesting ideas.

I found the volume both interesting and valuable, however it was surprising as a reviewer to have to flick through 180 pages before finding the first photo of real rock. In fact no papers look at field analogues for any plays. However despite its small size, the volume is high quality and contains excellent discussions of both successes and failures in exploration West of Shetland. Images are high quality and, particularly in the case of the seismic lines over individual discoveries, hard to find elsewhere.

However the volume could be more complete – some of the biggest problems with exploration in the basin (e.g. interpretation of base basalt), and some of the biggest debates (mantle plumes, spatial occurrence and prospectivity of Palaeozoic sequences, etc.) are under explored. Overall I would happily recommend this volume, it represents an excellent addition to the special publications series.

Review by Murray Hoggett



S.J.C. CANNON and D. ELLIS (Eds). 2014 Geological Society Special Publication 397, 229pp. ISBN 978-1-86239-652-4. List price: £90.00 ; Fellows’ price: £45.00.